Fireplace inserts offer the charming appeal of a fireplace without the maintenance and debris of dealing with real logs burning away indoors. There are a few maintenance concerns to keep in mind, such as making sure that you have the right kind of fuel for the system and that you have options when it comes to heating. Here are a few fuel use and efficiency points to keep in mind as you evaluate your heating plans.
Heat Loss And Fuel Efficiency
As far as efficiency, consider the amount of fuel used to the heat produced. Although industry professionals have multiple tools to test the efficiency, home and business users need to keep an eye out for a few basic features.
How is the fireplace built? Does it have an enclosure that retains heat, and is the opening shaped in a way that allows heat to freely flow from the fireplace? Inserts with too many decorative changes to the backing can be inefficient due to heat loss.
One example of heat loss caused by improper backing is hole-filled or slotted inserts. These inserts are designed to give a view of whatever may be behind the fireplace insert, such as showing off the original fireplace materials or showing off lighting behind the fire.
Such inserts are purely decorative. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but know that you're getting the insert for decorative purposes rather than for heating.
Understanding Fuel System Options
Another example of inefficient heating design is using odd ports for fuel and flame delivery. Using a lot of tubes with holes to create intricate flame designs or changing the exit hole of a pipe to create twisting flames is cool, but once again a purely cosmetic change.
Any surface that touches flame is affected in some way, leading to some level of heat loss. The amount of heat lost should be low as possible for efficient fireplace inserts, but additional piping, valves, and holes simply creates more metal to leech away at the heat, and more areas for heat to escape without entering an efficient area for distribution.
Choosing fuel is largely a question of what your fireplace insert can use and how cost effective the fuel may be. Heating oil, fuel gel, or propane can be used not only based on the cost per unit, but how long it takes to burn through the fuel.
Each fireplace should have an estimate for fuel consumption. If you don't have an answer on the box or in the manual, contact the manufacturer or speak with a heating fuel professional to get an estimate and to order fuel. Speak with a fuel professional directly if you're not sure about which fireplace and fuels to choose from, and enjoy suggestions that can make the fall and winter a lot more comfortable and efficient at the same time without losing a hearth's charm.